So a 5-0 week leaves me 13-5-2 and hoping someone is actually following my picks... Dr. Bob went 3-2 bringing him back to .500 at 10-10... Thinking Cyrus.
On to this week's picks... First from Dr. Bob...
VANDERBILT (-26) 42 Eastern Michigan 10
The one thing that is keeping Vanderbilt from being a good team is a pass attack on offense. Vanderbilt is a very good running team (6.2 yards per rushing play against teams that would allow 4.6 yprp to an average team), a good defensive team (5.2 yards per play allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.7 yppl against an average defense), and the Commodores are good on special teams. Unfortunately, quarterback Larry Smith is not a good passer, as he's averaged just 4.2 yards per pass play (against teams that would allow 5.9 yppp to an average QB). The lack of a pass attack hurts the Commodores against better teams and teams that can slow down their rushing attack, but Vandy may not need to throw at all against a horrible Eastern Michigan defense that is once again among the worst teams in the nation at defending the run. The Eagles have given up an average of 272 rushing yards at 6.5 yprp despite facing a schedule of teams that would combine to average only 4.5 yprp against an average team. The only good rushing team that Eastern Michigan faced was Ohio State, who ran for 344 yards at 8.6 yprp and scored 73 points against the Eagles. Vandy is not going to score 73 points, but the Commodores should run for over 300 yards (I project them with 344) and Smith is projected to average a reasonable 6.2 yards per pass play against the Eagles horrible pass defense (7.8 yppp allowed to quarterbacks that would average just 6.0 yppp against an average defensive team). While Vandy's offense is enjoying running the ball up and down the field, the Commodores' good defense will limit an Eastern Michigan attack that is 0.5 yppl worse than average (5.0 yppl against teams that would allow 5.5 yppl). Eastern Michigan has been a horrible team with a horrible defense for years and they have a long history of getting killed by non-conference opponents. In fact, the Eagles are just 9-33-1 ATS in non-conference games since 1994, including 3-17 ATS as a road underdog of 21 points or more.
Alabama (-6 ½) 35 SOUTH CAROLINA 23
Alabama isn't getting the respect that they deserve or people think that South Carolina is better than they are. The Gamecocks are a good team, but they're not a great team and they don't appear capable to staying within a touchdown of the clear #1 team in the nation. The problem with South Carolina is a defense that's give up 5.5 yards per play this season to teams that would combine to average 5.5 yppl against an average defensive team. Alabama has averaged 6.4 yppl in 3 games against good defensive teams Penn State, Arkansas, and Florida (who would combine to allow 4.7 yppl to an average team, so moving the ball against a mediocre South Carolina defense shouldn't be a problem. South Carolina has only faced one good running team and the Gamecocks were exploited for 340 rushing yards at 6.2 yards per rushing play by Auburn in their most recent game, so Alabama's two-headed backfield of Richardson and Ingram should find room to run while Bama quarterback Greg McElroy throws the ball efficiently against a sub-par Gamecocks secondary that's allowed 6.2 yards per pass play to quarterbacks that would average 5.8 yppp against an average team.
Lsu 19 FLORIDA (-6 ½) 20
LSU is perhaps the most fortunate of the remaining unbeaten teams after escaping with a win over Tennessee last week on a too many men on the field penalty against the Vols. LSU is a good team, but they certainly have a problem with an offense that's averaged just 5.3 yards per play (against teams that would allow 5.2 yppl to an average team). Florida's defense is 0.9 yppl better than average (4.8 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.7 yppl against an average team) and the Gators should have no trouble limiting the Tigers in this game regardless of which quarterback they're facing (Jarrett Lee may get the start of playing pretty well last week). Florida probably won't get much going offensively either with an attack that is just 0.4 yppl better than average (5.5 yppl against teams that would allow 5.1 yppl) going up against a dominating LSU stop unit that's yielded just 4.2 yppl (to teams that would average 5.6 yppl against an average team). LSU is actually a bit better overall from the line of scrimmage and a bit better in special teams, but turnovers could be a problem for the Tigers given the state of their quarterbacking (7 interceptions in 5 games) and Florida's habit of picking off passes (12 in 5 games). My math model gives LSU a profitable 54.4% chance of covering and great defenses getting points are usually pretty good bets. In fact, LSU applies to a 74-26-3 ATS statistical profile indicator that plays on good defensive underdogs. I'll consider LSU a Strong Opinion at +5 points or more and I'd take LSU in a 2-Star Best Bet at +7 points.
San Jose State (+39 ½) 16 NEVADA 45
Nevada is an explosive team that is capable of putting up a lot of points, but this line is simply too high. San Jose State has already played 3 road games against very good teams - Alabama, Wisconsin, and Utah - and the Spartans lost those games by an average of 37 points. No offense to Nevada, but they're not as good as any of those 3 teams, so asking them to win by 40 points is a stretch. In fact, Nevada is 5.5 points worse than the average rating of Alabama, Wisconsin, and Utah, which would result in a 31.5 point win if San Jose State plays as they did in those 3 games. Using all games for both teams my math model favors Nevada by just 31 points while another mathematical methods comes up with 32 points - so 31 ½ points appears to be a reasonable spread for this game. Nevada is averaging 44.6 points per game against a schedule of teams that combine to be 0.2 yppl worse than average defensively and San Jose State is only 0.2 yppl worse than average defensively too (6.1 yppl allowed to teams that would combine to average 5.9 yppl against an average team). - thus, it's reasonable to project around 45 points for the Wolf Pack in this game. San Jose State's offense has had some trouble scoring points (just 9.8 points per game), but they're not too horrible moving the ball (4.8 yppl against teams that would allow 5.4 yppl to an average team) and Nevada is 0.5 yppl worse than average defensively (5.6 yppl allowed to teams that would average 5.1 yppl), so the Spartans' offense is just barely worse than the Nevada defense and should score more than enough to cover such a big number. In addition to the line value, Nevada applies to a negative 48-102-2 ATS situation that plays against unbeaten favorites this time of the year. I realize that Nevada has a good history as a home favorite under coach Chris Ault (20-5 ATS), but they're just 3-4 ATS as a home favorite of 17 points or more, so covering huge numbers is not part of that great overall trend. San Jose State quarterback Jordan La Secla may miss this game with a rib injury, but backup Matt Faulkner actually played much better than La Secla last week (5 for 7 for 63 yards) and his compensated numbers on 17 pass plays this season is only 0.3 yards per pass play worse than La Secla, which would account for less than 1 point if he continues to play at that level.
Arizona State (+2 ½) 37 WASHINGTON 31
The difference in this game is the number of plays that Arizona State will run (my math model projects 76 plays for ASU and 65 for Washington), which will likely give the Sun Devils more total yards, and ASU's dominance in special teams. The Sun Devils have one of the best special teams units in the nation (they're currently rated #1 in my ratings) while Washington has mediocre special teams even with their great field goal kicker. The Sun Devils are likely to commit more turnovers, as quarterback Steven Threet is interception prone and Washington's Jake Locker is not, but even a projected 0.9 edge in turnover margin for the Huskies is not enough to make up for ASU's projected 74 yard advantage in total yards and their big advantage in special teams. My math model gives Arizona State a 57% chance of covering at +2 ½ points and Washington applies to a negative 20-51-3 ATS home letdown situation that applies to teams coming off an upset win as a road underdog of more than 7 points.
And now to my picks...
Denver +7 at Baltimore
Kyle Orton is well equipped to exploit the weaknesses in the Baltimore secondary. Also, Baltimore is likely to have a bit of a letdown after such a big win against their rivals.
Cleveland +3 vs Atlanta
Cleveland is an underrated team and has played well this season despite their record. Atlanta was lucky to win last week and they are NOT a dominant team.
Houston -3 vs New York Giants
In my book, "The House Advantage", I discuss the availability heuristic, which basically states that people place a higher probability on things they remember or can envision. Anyone who watched that Sunday night game envisions a ferocious Giants' pass rush. But the reality is they are a mediocre defense that will give up a lot of points to Houston.
SF -3 vs Philly
On the surface this line stinks. How can an 0-4 team give points to a solid Philly team? The reality is that Philly ain't so solid and SF is much better than their record indicates.
Tennessee +7 @ Dallas
Tennessee will keep this game close with defense and a solid running game. In fact I see a big game on the ground from VY.